IoT Devices Bring Rewards and Risks to Health Care Providers

By: Jeff Bertolucci| - Leave a comment

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The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution is well underway in industries around the world. Gartner forecasts that 8.4 million IoT devices will be in use by the end of 2017 — a 31 percent year-over-year increase. Nowhere is this change more evident than in the health care industry, where IT professionals are implementing a wide range of IoT devices that streamline the exchange of critical health data, simplify administrative tasks and improve patient outcomes.

That’s the good news. Of course, IoT presents plenty of risks, too, most notably a new breed of device that provides a vulnerable entry point into the network. Indeed, it’s not surprising that market revenues for IoT managed security services are expected to top $11 billion by 2021, according to ABI Research.

IoT in Health Care

In a recent video interview with TechRepublic, Tom Hull, CTO of Moffitt Cancer Center (MCC) in Tampa, Florida, provided some compelling health care examples of the potential benefits and perils of IoT devices.

On the plus side, MCC is using sensors in its cancer research and treatment center, including devices on patients’ beds that measure respiratory rate and patient movement, Hull told TechRepublic at the recent VMworld 2017 conference in Las Vegas. These sensors send critical data to and from the network and are connected to the electronic medical record.

“Our portfolio has expanded from 600 application systems to now thousands of different devices, all connected to the internet, feeding information to and from either the internet or some systems in our portfolio that may have patient data in them,” Hull told the source.

For instance, a nursing station may monitor 25 different rooms, Hull explained. Dashboard screens at the station enable nurses to monitor all the rooms from a central location. MCC also uses IoT sensors to track the temperature of refrigerators and freezers, many of which contain tissue samples for clinical trials.

“It’s something that we have to continually monitor,” added Hull.

More Devices, Greater Risk

Security experts warn that IoT devices are difficult to patch create a major security threat by providing more entry points for cybercriminals.

For example, University of Michigan researchers were able to infiltrate Samsung’s SmartThings automation platform and obtain the code to unlock the front door of a home.

For IoT manufacturers and users alike, the ultimate goal is to build a secure environment that embraces IoT devices, while also limiting the systems they communicate with.

“So security becomes not just the IT portfolio but also the Internet of Things portfolio,” said Hull, adding that his department’s anti-malware tools must also address the IoT environment.

According to a recent study from Synopsy, industrial control systems and IoT developers are the most likely have undiscovered vulnerabilities in their code and protocol, a shortcoming due to immature development processes not optimized for global network accessibility, eWEEK reports.

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About The Author

Jeff Bertolucci

News Writer

Jeff Bertolucci is a Los Angeles-based journalist specializing in technology, digital media, and education. His work has appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance, InformationWeek, PCWorld, Macworld, The Saturday Evening Post, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications.